One-test All Black halfback Brad Weber has admitted he was too intent on trying to get re-selected into the national side last season after being left in the international wilderness four years on from his test debut.
A regular starter for the Chiefs in Super Rugby, Weber was usurped by teammate Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi in the national pecking order last year, with the All Blacks selectors picking the latter as the third-string halfback behind incumbents Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara.
Things went from bad to worse for Weber, as he missed out on Steve Hansen’s extended 51-man squad for the Japanese leg of the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour in October, with Crusaders duo Bryn Hall and Mitchell Drummond selected instead.
The Hawke’s Bay veteran was quick to phone All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster for the reasoning behind his omission, while also requesting advice on how to stay in contention for the upcoming World Cup.
Although he now knows what is required of him to get back into the test arena, Weber said he has cast aside any hopes of a national recall, as he believes that was the hinderance that allowed opposing halfbacks to overtake him in the national set-up.
“It’s always going to be motivating, I guess, to aim for that [All Blacks selection],” he told Fairfax.
“But I probably let it creep into my thoughts a bit too much and it probably affected me. It was just always in the back of my mind, where I was at.
“To be honest, this year I’m not really even thinking about it anymore, it’s just trying to play way freeer, and with less on my mind I think it will benefit my rugby. And I’m pretty keen to win a championship here with the Chiefs. I love this team. So that’s the main motivating factor at this stage.”
Weber, who is entering his sixth season with the Chiefs, is contracted to New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2020, but has the option for an early release should offshore clubs come calling.
However, Weber is adamant that rejection from the World Cup squad would not play a part in his decision to leave New Zealand a year early given that he would have to give notice before that team is selected.
With all that in mind, the livewire halfback – who claims he is “in the best shape of my life” – is solely focused on performing well for the Chiefs this season, starting tonight in Hamilton when they open their Super Rugby campaign against the Highlanders.
“It’s been tough, they’ve been thrashing us. But it’s been good,” he said of the Chiefs’ pre-season preparation leading into tonight’s clash.
“The weight doesn’t change too much, to be fair, just the fitness is the best it’s ever been in terms of testing. I’m pretty happy that the speed’s still there, which is obviously one of my points of difference.
“I find the game’s way easier if I’m fitter, especially for a halfback, having to get to every ruck, and especially at the pace that we want to play. I know if I want to play for a decent amount of minutes then I’ve got to be real fit.”
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